Monday, February 12, 2018

After Midnight, Some dark offerings

Despite setbacks in life, I still try to find time to read, and feed my brain.  Sometimes that means a book of ancient poems by an ancient poet, sometimes I read history books on ancient battles, and even though rarely, I still enjoy reading a comic series.

The offerings here are from a darker vein than most, but perhaps that is appropriate.  I've recently lost people I'd otherwise thought as friends, had so little money I couldn't order copies of books I've written to resell, and have health issues that I find depressing at a deeper level than normal.

Behind every great suspense thriller lurks the shadow of M. In Fritz Lang's first sound film from 1931, Peter Lorre delivers a haunting performance as a serial killer--a whistling pedophile hunted by the police and brought to trial by the forces of the Berlin underworld.  In 1990, a young painter, Jon J Muth, continued his rise in the comic book industry by adapting the story of M into a four-issue comic book miniseries. Muth's photorealistic illustrations paved the way for the acceptance of painted comics, influencing a generation of artists who followed him.

M by Jon J. Muth was a near exact frame per frame adaptation of the Fritz Lang film M.  It is mind blowing, and especially so if you are a fan of the movie, or Mr. Lang's work in general.

"It’s Gotham City, 1928. Twenty years have passed since a madman slew the parents of young Bruce Wayne, heir to one of the city’s oldest fortunes. Twenty years since he fled the carnage of Gotham.
But now Bruce Wayne has returned—and hell has followed. A terrible thing from beyond space and time has awakened. The Lurker on the Threshold has called its faithful servants—immortal sorcerers, reptile men, beings of eldritch cold and fungal horror—to feed our world into its gaping maw.  If the Batman hopes to end the horror, how terrible must Bruce Wayne become?"

Batman: The Doom that came to Gotham takes freaky weird stories that match the Mike Mignola cover art, wraps it into a Batman story, and applies the Cthulhu mythos.  It is seriously far better than most comics that include super heroes.

"He has gone from supernatural hero to insane spirit of evil. In this collection, Deadman faces a slew of malicious spirits and the damned humans attacked by these paranormal entities. He must save the souls of murdered carnival freaks trapped in the abandoned remnants of a defunct circus train, rescue kidnapped children and battle a tide of demons. Great power lies within Deadman, but it can only be unlocked if he faces the secrets within himself—secrets that have driven him mad. Can he save the souls of the living and the dead when he cannot save himself?"

Deadman by Mike Baron and artist Kelley Jones combines darkly ironic, humorous words with a moody, truly macabre art approach to the character.  I love Baron's writing, but added to the moody dark of Jones, it is perfection.

The story of The Crow essentially follows a man turned vengeful spirit named Eric. He and his fiancée, Shelly, are assaulted by a criminal gang after their car breaks down. Eric is shot in the head and is unable to move. Eric dies, but is thereafter resurrected by a crow and seeks vengeance, methodically stalking and killing his fiancé's killer.

I confess, The Crow by J.O'Barr took a while to grow upon me.  I think most of the stories felt less like a story found within a greater mythos and instead, vignettes of a dark nature.  But, I like the character, and especially when O'Barr writes the stories, more than if he is both artist and writer, the dark is palpable and rich.

MISTER X is self described by Dean Motter and his various publishers as a fusion of film noir, Art Deco, and German Expressionism.   The story is of a utopian city with architecture that drives its inhabitants mad and the never-sleeping architect who quested tirelessly for a cure, Mister X. 

Mister X never or almost never sleeps, his mania, his nightly patrols of the city, all illustrate a tragic figure, but also, far deeper layers than the average reader would detect.  He is not a character you love, but he is a character worthy of the pathos I feel for him.  He is the creator of a madness, and his job is to cure it. 

The Horrorist is a tale of the character John Constantine as detailed and fleshed out by Jamie Delano, that is powerful, even filled with depth not seen in the longer run in the book Hellblazer.  Perhaps it is this way due to David Lloyd's art, or that facing a limited page count, Jamie told a story that had to have a certain amount of power to it in the space offered.  Jamie is my favorite writer of Hellblazer (Mike Carey thereafter) and it isn't wrong to suggest I just like Jamie on the character.  But I think it is the art with his words, that sort of gestalt combination, where one plus one equals three.  This is dark, raw but also beautiful, for what it is.

Sandman Mystery Theatre is not truly dark, despite the night time activities of the Golden Age Sandman and his companion.  It is a perfect 1940s pulp written for the modern audience, and Guy Davis art makes it have layers of texture, layers of meaning, that most comic art fails to create.   I like this, and it is a book I read when feeling a dose of Pulp.

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